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U.S. confirms plans to delay Afghan withdrawal

KABUL: The United States will delay the withdrawal of up to 1,000 troops from Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Saturday, adding they may remain for the first several months of 2015.

Hagel, officially confirming a change in the U.S. drawdown schedule first reported by Reuters, said U.S. forces in Afghanistan could fall only to 10,800 troops at the start of next year, rather than 9,800 as originally planned.

“But the president’s authorization will not change our troops’ missions, or the long-term timeline for our drawdown,” Hagel said.

The United States plans to scale back to 5,500 troops in 2016 and reduce to an embassy presence in 2017.

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